UCLA report on roadblocks to breast cancer care prompts legislative briefing in California

California State Senate will discuss barriers and possible solutions Jan. 12

In 2016, more than 26,700 California women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and an estimated 4,000 died from the disease. For women with breast cancer, the path from diagnosis to treatment to continued care is riddled with obstacles, according to a new analysis by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

What these barriers to breast cancer treatment are, why they exist, and how they can be addressed are topics of a 1 p.m. legislative briefing Jan. 12 in Sacramento, with Dr. Richard Pan, state senator from Sacramento, researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Sarah de Guia, executive director of California Pan-Ethnic Health Network leading the discussion.

“While we are making great progress in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, the disease continues to disproportionately hurt women and families with the fewest resources, such as those on Medi-Cal,” Pan said. “All women facing breast cancer deserve an equal chance at hope.”

The legislative briefing, which is co-sponsored the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, draws on the report “Barriers to Breast Cancer Care in California” released today by Ninez Ponce and A.J. Scheitler, researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The report reveals tiers of persistent roadblocks women face while seeking treatment, including a difficult-to-navigate health system, inadequate insurance, high costs, individual and cultural misconceptions, and language barriers. All people face access problems, regardless of income and race, but women who are uninsured, underinsured and have health coverage through public programs persistently face more obstacles, which leads to difficulty completing a treatment program.

During the briefing, the authors will focus on three key barriers from the report that impede breast cancer treatment:

  • Narrow Networks: Insurance companies that limit access to providers create narrow networks, which are a "system" barrier to timely breast cancer care. While a number of recent reports cite the tightening of provider networks for different health insurance plans, it even more strongly limits access to care for women with breast cancer in California.
  • Timely Care: Insurance status affects how quickly care can be obtained. Time spent waiting for authorizations often impacts continuity of care.
  • Cultural barriers: Women are often challenged to find breast cancer treatment providers who speak their language or understand their culture. Also, women appear to commonly hesitate to seek care because of cultural beliefs.

“Imagine you are diagnosed with breast cancer, but for whatever reason — lack of transportation, a language barrier, uncertainty over health insurance coverage — you can’t get the timely care that gives you the best chance of beating the cancer,” said Ponce, associate director at UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Policy recommendations to address each barrier include making sure health insurance networks are adequate by setting a minimum number of breast cancer specialists (plans do not require a minimum number of providers); extending period of treatment coverage by removing time limits, such as those in public programs; and developing culturally sensitive interventions that address cultural barriers to seeking care. The report also recommends that the care process includes interpretation/translation services beyond just medical visits to include tasks such as making appointments and educating patients on self-care.

“There are many locked doors that can prevent full treatment to women with breast cancer,” said de Guia of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “We need to unlock the doors to help women get the care they need to live longer, healthier lives.”

Join us at the public legislative briefing:

What: “Breaking the Barriers to Breast Cancer Care: Exploring Policy Options”
When: Thursday, Jan. 12
Time: 12:30 p.m. registration; 1–2 p.m. briefing
Where: Room 4203, State Capitol Building, 1315 10th S. Sacramento, CA 95814 (Map)
For additional information, please contact A.J. Scheitler at [email protected].

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